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Sailing used to be known as yachting until fairly recently, but the name of the sport has since been changed. While both sports requires a water body as well as a sea-faring vehicle, sailing and yachting differ in several key ways.


Sailing involves three main types of boats: dinghies, keelboats and multihulls. These vessels are normally very small and can only accommodate the crew and equipment required for the race, whereas yachts are considerably larger. Yachts, compared to boats used in sailing, are more luxurious and more spacious in order to facilitate longer journeys and races.

Race venues

Yacht racing normally takes place in saltwater, due to the larger size of the boats participating in the race. Comparatively, sailing races frequently take place on smaller water bodies such as lakes and larger rivers.

While fleet racing in sailing does take place on larger water bodies, such a location is more common for yacht racing. Yacht races frequently occur in oceans, where weather and water conditions may cause the race to drag on for several months.


Both sailing races and yacht races follow the same two formats: the ‘one-design’ format as well as the handicap (or also known as ratings) format. As larger yachts are inherently faster than smaller vessels, these larger yachts will have to play by the handicap system of allowing the smaller yachts a head start, or have points deducted from their overall score according to its rating. While handicap racing is not as common in sailing races due to the fact that majority of the race types require identical boats, it is sometimes used in fleet racing.

Race categories

Both yachting and sailing races are categorized similarly: inshore, offshore and oceanic. Inshore racing refers to racing that is not done in protected waters, yet still within sight of land. Offshore races are races that are held further away from land than inshore races, but not in oceans. Oceanic racing, of course, refers to races held in oceans and often also mean races that take place around the world.

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